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    Thread: LED Instrument Lights - How To

    1. 10-21-2003 06:21 PM #1
      Here it is, the long awaited (or maybe just vastly overlooked) LED instrument light How-To.

      First thing's first, yank the cluster and get rid of all the green plastic. Replace it with part of an old jug or whatever across the top to act as a diffuser and put the digital clock back together without it. Assuming you've gotten that far, you now have a sickly yellowish colored light thanks to the wonderful world of incandescents. Well, that's what we're here to fix and so fix it we shall. Let's go LED on this bad boy.

      You're going to need some soldering skills for this one, a total of seven components from RadioShack, solder, flux, wire and shrinkwrap. The bill should come to about $30 if you go for white (plus $10 for the soldering wand if yours gives up the ghost halfway through the job like mine did) and as little as $10 if you want to go red, green or amber.


      schematic used without permission

      The first thing you will notice is that this schematic uses 4 LEDs while our Foxes use 3 instrument lights. Not a problem, just drill a 5mm hole in between the two top lights and drop your fourth bulb in there.

      Please excuse the quality of pic, cheap digicam is better than none.

      Here's where I placed my 4th LED, gives it a nice, even glow all the way across the top of the cluster.

      This is your old instrument light with the bulb removed from the holder.

      And the holder with a 5mm LED inseted into it.

      Now, to get into making this work on the Fox. The first thing I did was tap into the light circuit, that's the black jumper wire all the way on the end. The capacitor was soldered to one end of that jumper and the power lead to my LEDs was tacked on to the other side.

      Running the wires was more trial and error than anything, but as long as you follow the schematic, it shouldn't give you any trouble. The two LEDs with holders made up my first pair, then power was sent through the load regulator (LM317 and 30 Ohm resistor) so the lights didn't explode under 12 volts. That would be what we in the technical field call a 'Bad Thing'(TM). Then the same deal with wiring in the light behind the digital clock and the 4th lamp mounted up between the first two. From the second set of lights, I ran a wire to the other end of the capacitor and then to ground. One of the nuts on the back of the tach grounds to the same circuit as the instrument lights. Bonus!

      Then the LM317 Adjustable Voltage Regulator was affixed using a factory fastener (white plastic piece between the LM317 and the cluster circuit to maintain a clean ground line) and it was all ready for installation into the car.


      Parts list: (With RS Catalog #s)

      4 matched 5mm LEDs (3.6V 20ma) - My white 1100MCD ones were $4.99 each (Cat#276-320), blues run $3.99 for 2600 MCD intensity(Cat# ) with reds emitting 3000 MCD for $1.99(Cat# 276-307) and Yellow 1900 MCD intensity going for $2.49 (Cat# 276-351). Note: Those yellows are 40mA load rather than 20mA, so each single LED will replace a pair on the schematic.

      30 Ohm 1/4W resistor - Couldn't find a 30, but RadioShack had 5 10s for $0.99 and three of those together gave me what I needed. (Cat# 271-1301)

      0.1uF capacitor - Another 99 cent part, came in a pack of two for that price. (Cat# 272-135)

      LM317 Adjustable Voltage Regulator - A whopping $1.99 (Cat# 276-1778)

      Shrinkwrap and wire - Had these laying around, probably $3 to buy more than enough for 5 of these jobs.

      Ther you have it, anyone with moderate electronics assembly skill should be able to knock one of these together in a couple hours and run with custom LED instrument lights. The best part is, the variable voltage means my light dimmer still works.

      Good luck out there, and be careful with that soldering wand.

      (for hobbyist use only, not my problem if you fry your car, yourself, burn down your house or explode ceramic components in your face causing disfiguration and/or loss of job)


      Modified by Ol' Grey Fox at 11:57 PM 10-22-2003


      Modified by Ol' Grey Fox at 12:20 AM 10-23-2003


    2. Member HiJinx's Avatar
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      10-21-2003 06:43 PM #2
      Nice write up and welcome to the FAQs.
      Hey, you should offer to have people send you thier clusters and you can redo them for a fee.
      just a thought as I loath wiring.

    3. 10-21-2003 07:03 PM #3
      I could do that... Once I figured everything out it really wasn't that hard, just time consuming.

      Anyone who wants an LED lighting system in their Fox, drop me a line and we'll work out something for pricing. I can also do custom guage faces as seen here.

      Though the quality on those isn't quite as good as the ones on eBay because I'm printing on regular sticker paper. Maybe by using a glossy paper I can get better results.


    4. 10-22-2003 02:16 AM #4
      Any finished pics of the LED's in action?

    5. 10-22-2003 03:17 AM #5
      Here's the show, all tidy and installed.

      Dash lights on full bright.

      And dash lights turned all the way down.

      They can of course be set to any level in between.


    6. 10-22-2003 09:51 AM #6
      I don't really like the white myself. But nice job on the graphics. Props for nice clean work!

    7. 10-22-2003 11:04 AM #7
      A couple blue leds would look cool.

    8. 10-22-2003 11:08 AM #8
      I might do the red... And besides, red is better for night driving (which, afterall, is when you'll be seeing the lights).

    9. 10-22-2003 11:28 AM #9
      For red lights with white guages, you'll want black needles for obvious reasons.

      I was just thinking how cool it would look to have a car in all black with small bits of red trim and then do the red LEDs in the dash.
      I went for white because the color motif of my car is grey with white accents and black trim, on another car I'd certainly have gone for another color. The goal of this job was to make my white faces look white at night instead of that yellowish glow the factory lights give off.

      Good luck to all those doing this project, just ask if you have any unanswered questions about it.


    10. Member --Klutched--'s Avatar
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      10-22-2003 09:10 PM #10
      That's wicked, my stock inst. lights give off a very definiate green glow, very old school european look which I like but I think Im gonna attempt to do this mod, to better suit my blue cd deck display Wish me luck on not creating an electrical fire hazard


      Modified by --Klutched-- at 2:11 AM 10-23-2003


      Modified by --Klutched-- at 2:12 AM 10-23-2003


    11. Member efritsch's Avatar
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      10-22-2003 10:06 PM #11
      I'll add that to the FAQ. That's awesome!! Think it could be done to my Passat Cluster?
      Quote Originally Posted by 90quattrocoupe
      I am old enough that I only have to be nice when I want to.

    12. 10-22-2003 10:13 PM #12
      No reason it can't be done to any cluster at all. The wiring and such is entirely seperate from the rest of the vehicle except where the power and ground connect. And those could /in theory/ be taken off a standard bulb holder rather than where I put them on the Fox. The only thing is that you might find a kit for the Passat for not much more than the cost of parts and a lot less labor. But if not, this is certainly an option. You'll just have to work out mounting the bulbs and replacing the colored diffuser yourself.


      EDIT: I added some more LED info and RadioShack catalog numbers for everything to help make the task a little easier.


      Modified by Ol' Grey Fox at 11:59 PM 10-22-2003


    13. 06-09-2004 12:29 AM #13
      hey could you give any details on how you made the custom guage faces?

    14. Member Banned wagon's Avatar
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      06-09-2004 02:01 AM #14

    15. Member DubPhreek's Avatar
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      03-05-2007 05:19 PM #15
      I've successfully converted 3 of my switches to LED.. a 5mm red bright led, and a 680 ohm resistor on the positive end.. they're bright, and it was cheap, a little time consuming cause I hadnt done that before..

      considering that the dash current is controlled at the light switch.. I was planning on modding the odo to have a small dongle/harness that taps off the of the light switch.. reducing the need for all this extra fluff..



      Modified by DubPhreek at 9:42 AM 3-6-2007


    16. Member 2925's Avatar
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      02-21-2008 05:59 PM #16
      Do you think you could give me some pointers on taking off the instrument cluster??

      do i have to take the entire dash off aswell?

      please respond soon hah im kind of in a pickle


    17. 02-21-2008 06:20 PM #17
      jesus christ, look at a date every now and then.

      to remove the cluster you pop out all the dash switches. there are then 4 screws to remove the bezel. you then remove 2 screws to loosen the cluster. reach under the dash and undo the speedo cable and the 2 electrical plugs. then fish the thing out of there. the speedo cable is a total bitch.

      some say to remove the steering wheel -- i've only removed it once yet have pulled gage cluster probably 20 times.


    18. Member 2925's Avatar
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      02-21-2008 06:35 PM #18
      Hah, 2003, sort of old. but whatever someone still replied right?

      Alright, that sounds easy enough, to the point up to the plugs and cable...
      ill be trying it tonight i think


    19. 02-21-2008 06:58 PM #19
      make sure you have plenty of patience. Getting the speedo connected and disconnected can really be a total bitch depending on how good you are at unclamping little things that you can't see. It's released by a little lever molded into it that unlocks off a groove in the speedometer.

    20. Member 2925's Avatar
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      02-21-2008 07:48 PM #20
      Oh geez... is more towards the back of the cluster or somewhere in the mess of wire underneath?

    21. 02-21-2008 09:19 PM #21
      1993 Fox is slightly different (easier). It's been a while since I've had mine apart, so going from vague memory: Maybe only 1 screw each side to remove bezel. Back of instrument cluster also comes off, maybe at same time as bezel. Thus can easily reach behind cluster to disconnect speedo cable; no need to reach up under dash.
      1993 (and 1992?) is a much better design. I want a early Fox dash with a deep glove box, but 1993 cluster mounting.

    22. Member 2925's Avatar
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      02-21-2008 09:56 PM #22
      Yeah i tore through all that pretty easily..
      but damn me i cant find a problem with the wires, actually i found an extra connection thing... haha ill post pics in the other thread

      its really bad btw, so many wires that go to nothing


    23. 10-30-2008 01:23 PM #23
      If your lazy like me go to this web site and buy colored leds
      http://www.meistergaugefaces.com/index.html
      $6 each

    24. 10-30-2008 01:33 PM #24
      +1 to Ol Grey Fox's pics still being up.

    25. Member ComradePie's Avatar
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      10-30-2008 01:41 PM #25
      I can get down to that... I hate phantom pics in good FAQs... They make me want to punch small dogs... Not that I would ever do that...
      YNWA
      COME ON YOU REDS!!!!!

    26. 11-03-2008 09:43 PM #26
      Can we get this added to the main FAQ section. Since the pictures do still work unlike a lot of threads. Old threads that actually have good info in them like this are hard to find again sometimes.

    27. 11-03-2008 10:22 PM #27
      Quote, originally posted by mk2glinit »
      If your lazy like me go to this web site and buy colored leds
      http://www.meistergaugefaces.com/index.html
      $8 each

      Which ones work for the fox? or are they all the same?


    28. 11-04-2008 12:02 AM #28
      Quote, originally posted by IllIllIll »
      Can we get this added to the main FAQ section. Since the pictures do still work unlike a lot of threads. Old threads that actually have good info in them like this are hard to find again sometimes.

      it's already in the FAQ.


    29. 03-17-2009 08:09 PM #29
      short of LED's, can replacement bulbs still be found?

      I've tried three sets, none fit correctly.

      Does anyone have a source for these wee beauties?


    30. Member Lectrol's Avatar
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      03-17-2009 10:41 PM #30
      http://www.autohausaz.com/sear...Light

      Nice old thread dig up btw

      ┌─┐
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    31. Member Banned wagon's Avatar
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      03-18-2009 12:02 AM #31
      Back2 Basics.com sells a few different colors just a drop in mod

      http://baak2basics.com/catalog...age=2

      http://baak2basics.com/catalog...d=114




    32. Member efritsch's Avatar
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      03-18-2009 03:14 PM #32
      I'm amazed that the images in the original post still work! I've always intended to try this mod and never got around to it.
      Quote Originally Posted by 90quattrocoupe
      I am old enough that I only have to be nice when I want to.

    33. 03-19-2009 12:49 AM #33
      Quote, originally posted by Banned wagon »
      Back2Basics.com sells a few different colors just a drop in mod

      thankyou!

      Brandon A.
      BAAK2BASICS TUNING LLC
      FACESPACE US CLICK HERE

    34. Junior Member VdubPDX's Avatar
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      10-13-2009 05:52 PM #34
      WOW that is just way to over complicated and way to much clutter. I just converted mine to blue LEDs. All you need are 3 5mm 3.7 Volt 20mA 2600mcd LEDs and 3 470Ohm 1/4 watt resistors and a package of stencile blanks from Michaels craft store for a diffusor found in the stecile isle the are opaque white and make a perfect diffusor and you get three so you have wiggle room should you make a mistake on the first one. NO WIRE NEEDED. will be posting a how-to when i do my friends gauge cluster this weekend. my total cost was 15.00 but i already have the soldering supplies

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      01-14-2012 10:53 PM #35
      How come when i go to certain threads i cant see the pictures? What happened? Did people remove all the pictures or what?

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